Of all the things you ever learned, one lesson unlocked nearly everything else.
You probably don’t even remember when it happened, when you realized that squiggles and angles could help you to know all there is to know. Indeed, the ABCs were just the beginning. And in the new book “How to Treat People” by Molly Case, the ABCs help stave off an end.
When a nurse begins the training needed to save lives, one of the first things he or she learns is one of the first things learned as a toddler: ABCDE. Five simple letters that, in order, stand for the things that nurse will look for when faced with someone who needs critical care.
“A” stands for airway which, says Case “is always where we start,” and it’s where she starts her story. Her father was considerably older than her mother, and other children teased Case for it. She told him it didn’t bother her to have a grandpa-age dad, but it did. Still, she adored her father and, while in nursing school, she remembered his hugs and the feel of his breath on her cheek.
Cheek-to-lips is one way for a nurse to check for an open airway.
“B” is for breathing, the next step in the assessment: is the patient doing it? Case tells of witnessing last breaths then, hours later, going upstairs to the birth center, where she heard the wail of someone taking their first.
Her father always on her mind, Case says his story fits in with “C” for circulation: his was poor, and he had several operations on his leg. He almost lost that leg and his life.
“D” is for disability, she says, which is the “neurological assessment of the patient.” Is the brain functioning correctly? Are they conscious, or seizing or, as with one of her more memorable patients, forever unable to communicate?
The final letter merely asks a nurse to note the patient’s overall condition. Is he bleeding, injured, rashy or pale? Should she start the alphabet over? “E” is for exposure but “it does not represent the end.”
Filled with Britishisms – Case works in London – “How to Treat People” really is a genuine treat, even despite its quirks.
There’s a good amount of biography in her story, which will instantly capture readers; Case’s memories of her early career are wrapped up with recollections of her family, vividly and affectionately, hand in hand. This leads to tales about unforgettable patients, and accounts of the care they needed, relevant to ABCDE.
The quirk comes in the too-frequent passages in which Case muses on ancient medical practices. They’re interesting – at least, at first – but after awhile, their presence begins to feel like filler. You’d be forgiven for jumping past them.
But don’t jump too far. The overall atmosphere inside “How to Treat People” is too good to miss, especially if you’re a nurse, love one, or are beholden to one. For anyone who’s ever needed care, or will, this book is a worthwhile “A.”